One from the books

I research a lot of things about woodworking.  I consider it the “professional development” side of what I do.  And it keeps me going if I’ve somehow mangled one of my appendages or if it’s just too cold to work (that polar vortex is brutal with an unheated garage!).

One thing that I had overheard in passing was the bemoaning of how everything seemed to be cherry or maple.  “What’s wrong with oak?!  I like oak!”, she said.  Her house, built in 1920, certainly embodies that, with classic Craftsman style details, from wide oak mouldings to pocket doors.  When the opportunity came up to make a piece for her, I knew that it had to be in the Craftsman style to fit not only her house but also her tastes.

A very beneficial gift from the past (at least for me) has been the preservation of the catalogues of the various Stickley brothers.  Lavishly illustrated (especially for the time), they provide a fascinating view into an era that seems well and truly another country.  This is the top of page 37 in Gustav Stickley’s 1910 catalogue, courtesy of the local library system.


This design seems to be fairly common, ranging from the diminutive to dining tables that will seat eight or ten fairly easily.  For this build, the number 603 tabouret is the one most useful, as it is a comfortable side table height (though I’ve also seen them used as plant stands without any fuss).

A couple of minor details here.  First, even though it looks like it should be pronounced like “filet” or (raspberry) “beret”, the interesting thing is that tabouret is in fact pronounced like “briquette” or “kitchenette”.  I don’t know why, but there it is.  I yield to the ghost of Murray in this matter.

Second, the quoted price of $3.75 might not seem like much, but do remember that this was in 1910.  A cabinetmaker such as myself was earning, on average, a whopping $0.24 per hour back then.  So, this little bitty side table would have cost two days worth of labour.  What will two days worth of wages buy you these days?

Right, so one nice thing about this particular piece is that I didn’t have to puzzle out how it was made.  I had a copy of Robert Lang’s superb book of shop drawings, and there was our little tabouret in all its glory.  So now I had an idea of what I wanted to build, and blueprints to do so.  All that was left was to cut some wood and glue it together.  Easy!